The 2022 midterm elections were full of both surprisingly close elections and landslide victories. Races such as the Georgia and Pennsylvania US Senate elections dominated the news cycle. As the dust settled, it became clear that Republicans had regained a very narrow majority in the House of Representatives, but failed to flip the Senate, which will remain under Democratic control. One election that slipped under the radar was that of George Santos in New York’s 3rd Congressional district on Long Island. Santos’s race made some headlines for being the first in history with two openly-gay candidates running against each other. However, his election, and he himself, were largely overlooked by the media and the public eye, until now.
In recent weeks, numerous reports have emerged regarding false statements made by Santos during his campaign. Ranging from “embellishing” personal educational and employment details to serious financial investigations, the current concern regarding Santos has dominated what has been an otherwise bland political news cycle.
During his campaign, Santos portrayed himself as “the embodiment of the American dream.” He is the son of Brazilian immigrants and highlights his family values and life story on his campaign website. He also highlighted his business accomplishments as an employee of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Unfortunately for Santos, both of these firms confirm that they have no record of Santos working for them. Additionally, Santos claims to have graduated from Baruch College in 2010, but again, the institution has no record of this. Santos has also repeatedly mentioned his non-profit: “Friends of Pets United.” However, the IRS has confirmed that the organization is not a non-profit, while those familiar with the group have suggested that the money it raised was never donated to unfortunate pets at all. Santos’s financial situation is questionable as well. For example, after officially declaring in 2020 that he had no assets, Santos donated $700,000 to his own 2022 campaign. Santos is now under federal investigation into his financial situation as it relates to mandatory financial disclosure forms that he may have lied on while campaigning.
There are numerous other potentially false statements that Santos has made over the years. He claimed that several of his “employees” were killed in a 2016 nightclub shooting, but the New York Times confirmed that none of the victims were ever employed at any of the firms where Santos claims to have worked. He has claimed that his family was Jewish and fled the Holocaust, going as far as to describe himself as “a proud American Jew.” After this was discovered to be blatantly false, Santos backtracked and said that he meant to say he was “Jew-ish.”
Santos has since admitted to lying about his resume and background, saying “My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry.” He admitted to lying about his past education and employment, explaining that “We do stupid things in life.” Is is a question of Integrity? Shame? Honesty? or “Winning at all/any cost”?
Santos, despite calls from both sides of the aisle to not take office, plans to do so this week. Once Kevin McCarthy (or another Republican) is elected as House Speaker (replacing Nancy Pelosi), new members of Congress willbe sworn in. Santos’ election points to a larger and decidedly harmful trend in politics. Clearly his party, the media, and society as a whole was unable to verify basic information about Santos, allowing him to be elected essentially on a lie. We seem to have entered a “post-truth” era in American politics in which a candidate’s political loyalty (Santos is an avid supporter of former President Trump) plays a larger role than their actual qualifications.
As the next generation of political leaders looks up to Santos and other officials for inspiration, will they focus on their talents, experience and accomplishments? Or will they simply repeat the lines of political parties to get elected? Is political office about public service or simply winning?